Joan Blades: Living Room Conversations Primer

Access, Crowd-Sourcing, Design, Education, Innovation, Knowledge, P2P / Panarchy, Politics, Resilience, Transparency
Joan Blades
Joan Blades

DOC (6 Pages): LRC General Information Packet

MoveOn, MomsRising, and now LivingRoomConversations

Generic meaningful social experiments in nurturing citizens in community. Note that the issue to be addressed communally is presented in Round 3, Rounds 1 and 2 are about building trust & understanding. There are a total of 5 rounds in two hours.

Full Text Online Below the Fold

Overview & Conversation Information

Overview

Thank you for accepting the invitation to take part in this unique social experiment. The Living Room Conversations (LRC) team has created this Suggested Pre-Work and Conversation Guide to support you in engaging fully in a purposeful and meaningful conversation.

The Living Room Conversations process is designed to be a simple and sociable living room conversation in which a small group of people comes together to get to know one another, in a more meaningful way than usual, by talking about their sense of personal purpose in their lives and about the issues that are of personal priority and concern. The goal is for everyone to be open and curious about all perspectives and see what we learn from one another, rather than to debate any topic or issue.

Pre-Conversation Information

This is a ‘no surprises’ and transparent approach to an unusual conversation. You are about to see and read the material that will be covered and referenced during the Living Room Conversation. You are encouraged to print this out and bring it with you. With this material in hand, all the participants have the opportunity to think and prepare before the event as much or as little as you care to. We encourage you to participate and contribute fully before and during the event.

Sample Conversation Questions and Rounds.

Below are a few sample questions that will be asked during the Living Room Conversation. You may want to take just a few minutes, or as long as you want, to think about each question listed below (and found again in the Living Room Conversations Guide). You are welcome to make and bring notes as you please.

Note: Some of the bullets below have several questions and in those cases you are welcome to answer the one or two that are most meaningful to you.

  • Why did you accept the invitation to participate in this conversation? What interested you or drew you to this conversation?
  • What sense of purpose / mission / duty guides you in your personal and/or professional life? What would your best friend say about who you are and what makes you “tick”? What three words would a family member use to describe the “essence” of you?
  • What are your hopes and / or concerns for the longer-term future? What most concerns you about your community and / or the country right now?

Note: The following questions will be asked at the gathering and are presented here so you know what to expect. As you can see, they are not answerable before the fact.

  • What learning, new understanding or appreciation do you have about an issue of concern?
  • Has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group, including yourself?
  • Is there any next step you would like to take based upon the conversation you just had?
  • What is one important thing you thought was accomplished here? What did you appreciate the most about what happened here? Who would you especially like to acknowledge?
  • In one sentence, share what was most meaningful/valuable to you in the experience of this conversation.

Living Room Conversations Guide

Purpose, Intended Outcomes, Conversation Guidelines and Rounds / Questions

The Purpose of Living Room Conversation Project is Fourfold:

  1. Develop a practical, personal and social approach to hosting rewarding and productive conversations among people with different political perspectives. A Living Room Conversation is intended to provide a simple means to support people who see the need and are willing to actively reach and connect across political divides.
  2. Provide a simple and sociable living room conversation format in which a small group of people comes together to get to know one another, in a more meaningful way than usual, by talking about their sense of personal purpose in their lives and about their priority hopes and concerns for the future of their community and country.
  3. Living Room Conversations provides a framework and means to move away from divisive “opinion” debate and instead have a purposeful “desired future” conversation while staying open and curious about all perspectives and then to see what participants learn from one another.
  4. The purpose of the Living Room Conversations project is to provide a practical and powerful approach to support the rising spirit of citizens coming together, outside of the partisan bickering, to create new and unlikely relationships, to encourage sustained engagement and to spark opportunities for cooperative action to address local and national challenges. We dream of enhancing the quality of our public dialogue so that we can benefit from purposeful and respectful interactions among citizens and leaders both locally and nationally.

The Intended Outcomes of a Living Room Conversation are:

  1. To generate a spirit of mutual curiosity, respect and appreciation among those of differing political / issue perspectives.
  2. To bring forth the trust and courage to generously express and actively appreciate one another’s authentic revealing of heartfelt values, principles and sense of purpose.
  3. To listen generously and actively support the discovery of common interest and concern.
  4. To be open and curious about all perspectives and see what can be learned from listening to one another, rather than debating differing “opinions” on any topic or issue.
  5. To inspire a sense of openness, willingness and even partnership for further connecting or cooperating in some way.
  6. To evoke a direct experience of an authentic, meaningful and rewarding conversation.
  7. To foster a sense of confidence and willingness in participants to take initiative to reach out to those they usually avoid.

The Living Room Conversation Ground Rules

Be Curious and Open to Learning

Listen to and be open to hearing all points of view. Maintain an attitude of exploration and learning. Conversation is as much about listening as it is about talking.

Show Respect and Suspend Judgment

Human beings tend to judge one another, do your best not to. Setting judgments aside will better enable you to learn from others and help them feel respected and appreciated.

Look for Common Ground

In this conversation, we look for what we agree on and simply appreciate that we will disagree on some beliefs and opinions.

Be Authentic and Welcome that from Others

Share what’s important to you. Speak authentically from your personal and heartfelt experience. Be considerate to others who are doing the same.

Be Purposeful and to the Point

Notice if what you are conveying is or is not “on purpose” to the question at hand. Notice if you are making the same point more than once.

Own and Guide the Conversation

Take responsibility for the quality of your participation and the quality of the conversation by noticing what’s happening and actively support getting yourself and others back “on purpose” when needed.

Tips For Managing Off-topic, Lively, or Disruptive Situations During the Living Room Conversation

Every one shares responsibility for guiding the conversation you are invited to be self-monitoring and help keep the conversation on track.

  1. Respectfully interrupt the situation.
  2. If an area of interest has arisen that has taken the group off topic, ask the group if they would like to set aside the new topic for a second Living Room Conversation.
  3. If helpful, refer to the Participant Handout where the Purpose, Intended Outcomes and Conversation Guidelines are described.
  4. If someone is lively, disruptive or has found their soapbox, ask if they are willing to get back on track with the current question of the round, so the group can fulfill the intent of the Living Room Conversation.
  5. If the group decides to leave the format of the Living Room Conversations, please provide us with feedback for future learning. Thank you! [email protected]

Rounds/Questions: The Living Room Conversation Starts Here

A Living Room Conversation is designed to flow through 6 rounds; 5 rounds with questions and the closing. During some rounds, each question will be addressed. In other rounds, the multiple questions are intended as conversation starters and you need only respond to the one or two that matter the most to you. In the event the conversation wanders off track, we will refer to this Conversation Guide to get it back on track.

Round One: Getting Started / Why Are We Here? ~ 20 minutes

  • Why are you here?
  • Why did you accept the invitation to participate in this conversation?
  • What interested you or drew you to this conversation?

Round Two: Hopes and Concerns for The Future ~ 30 minutes

Answer one or more of the following:

  • Who are you?
  • What sense of purpose / mission / duty guides you in your personal and / or professional life?
  • What would your best friend say about who you are and what makes you “tick”?
  • What three words would a family member use to describe the “essence” of you?

Answer both of the following.

  • What are your hopes and / or concerns for the longer term future?
  • What most concerns you about your community and/or the country right now?

Round Three: What are your biggest concerns about the topic area selected? ~ 50 minutes

Remember that the goal for this Living Room Conversation is for all of us to listen and learn about where we have different opinions and where we have shared interests, intentions and goals.

  • When it comes to this topic area, what are you most concerned about right now?
  • Where is it on your top-10 list? Why?

Round Four: What Are We Learning Here? ~ 25 Minutes

Answer each of the following questions:

  • What learning, new understanding or appreciations do you have about the topic area selected?
  • Has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group, including yourself?
  • Is there any next step you would like to take based upon the conversation you just had?

Round Five: Accomplishment, Appreciation, Acknowledgement. ~ 20 minutes

Answer one or more of the following questions:

  • What is one important thing you thought was accomplished here?
  • What did you appreciate the most about what happened here?
  • Who would you especially like to acknowledge?
  • In one sentence, share what was most meaningful / valuable to you in the experience of this Living Room Conversation.

Closing  – Thank you!

Living Room Conversations are intended to enable citizens to build relationships with diverse members of their community and lead our leaders in embracing our shared values and finding avenues to collaborate in ways that are good for all of us. Your leadership is deeply appreciated.

Next steps

  • Were any agreements identified that could be shared on the Living Room Conversations website?  If so please do share!
  • Would you like to have a second conversation? Many groups share their contact information amongst themselves and have ongoing conversations both online and in person as a group and one on one.
  • Go to the http://www.livingroomconversations.org/feedback/ to let us know about your experience.  Write a short comment or share a blog.

As an open source project, Living Room Conversations is our shared resource. We learn from every conversation people report back on.  Anyone is welcome to use the Living Room Conversations materials and adjust them to fit their purposes. We ask you to provide attribution when you use the materials. Please join our online community. With your help we are always improving the materials and learning from the ongoing conversations of citizens that share what they learn in their Living Room Conversations. We look forward to creating a more and more caring and healthy society together. If you have feedback, please email [email protected].

Host & Participant Feedback Form – for immediately following the conversation

Please hand this in tonight! Or take pictures of your completed form and email them to [email protected]

Host, Location & Topic:________________________________________________________

  1. What was most satisfying, enriching, or valuable about your experience in this conversation?
    Less than satisfying, frustrating or challenging?

__________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________

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  1. What did you learn about the concerns of others in the group?       What was new to you?

__________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________

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  1. What advice or suggestions can you offer to people designing future conversations on this issue?

__________________________________________________________________________

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  1. May we share your feedback publically as first-hand experience with the Living Room Conversations project?   q Yes q No
  2. Would you consider hosting a similar gathering in your home and encourage family and / or friends to participate in a Living Room Conversation? q Yes q No
  3. May Living Room Conversations contact you for further feedback?  q Yes q No
  4. Please keep me informed about Living Room Conversations!       q Yes q No

Name (optional): _________________________________________________________

Email: _________________________________________________________________

Phone: ________________________________________________________________

Privacy statement: Your contact information, including name, email and phone number will be used only for the purpose of gathering your feedback, unless the box in #7 was checked “yes.” If checked yes, we will add you to our monthly email communication list

Learn more: LivingRoomConversations